BFI London Film Festival Reviews

Official Secrets – BFI London Film Festival 2019 Review

The world is terrifying right now. Especially when you look at politics. Nearly most countries seem to be in turmoil. Our leaders are becoming more corrupt than ever and fascist groups are becoming more prominent within our system. It’s a trepid world where many are dying and we’re over-turning lies and deceit from the very people who are supposed to protect us.

But this is nothing new, is it? We are constantly being manipulated by these parties who do not give us any straight answers. And this is where cinema comes in – to tell the stories the government are afraid to.

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Directed by Gavin Hood, Official Secrets is based on the true story of GCHQ (her Government Communications Headquarters) employee Katharine Gun. Whose job it is to listen to conversations in order to expose threats. One day she and her colleagues are sent an email which exposes an illegal spying operation for the United States of America who are looking for information to blackmail small UN nations in order to Unable to hold onto the information. Katharine leaks the  information to the press and winds up at the centre of a political scandal.

Gavin Hood is well adept at brooding thrillers, showcased in the criminally under-seen Eye in the Sky. Here he applies this to a film that could’ve felt scrawling and over-wrought, with dramatic tones. Instead, Official Secrets feels more like All The President’s Men or Spotlight, where the drama comes from the intelligence and process of bringing this to light. With the script and direction, the taut and gripping film flows into three different operations: Katharine’s personal journey leaking the email, the press and their research, and then the lawyers tasked with protecting her. All this moments blend effortlessly, and keep you on the edge of your seat as spell-checking mistakes and misplaced sources could break the case.

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Kiera Knightley is exceptional. Despite one sequence that feels extremely over the top, not a fault of Knightley but the script, her acting feels understated, raw and real. From curled up on the sofa shouting at politicians on TV to jokes with her colleagues in spite of her job, Knightley brings her best work here that even Katharine walking to her bosses office to confess feels like an emotional upheaval. This is Knightley’s film but support in the shape Matt Smith, Matthew Goode, and Ralph Fiennes as a reporter and lawyer respectively.

Official Secrets is an engrossing drama. The film is an impressive ode to people who do something extraordinary to protect the public. And maybe it’ll inspire the next whistleblower, the next hero…The next Katharine Gun.


Official Secrets played as part of the BFI London Film Festival
It’s out 18th October.

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